A/N: Hello everyone! I just wanted to give a little background for this story as I begin to post it. This is a long AN, so please bear with me. It's the only one that will be this long.
I'm back with my first long story in pretty much forever! This is a very special story to me. I started this story last year after I watched the first half of Season 5 on DVD. I began writing it because I was heartbroken by the way things were going between my favorite couple during the majority of Season 5.
The story begins approximately a year and a half after the events in the episode '100'. It is important to note however, that the story becomes completely altered canon after the events in 'Risky Business'. Also, this is the longer story mentioned in the AN for "Reason to Stay". It isn't necessary to read that one first, however. I truly hope everyone enjoys it! A little warning however – it's very angsty, and will be that way for a bit.
The song quoted is I Believe in You by Il Divo. For me, it completely captures Penelope in this story. The title of the story is also taken from the song.
Disclaimer: I own nothing of Criminal Minds. I'm just playing a little :)
Chapter 1 – Contemplating the End
Lonely, the path you have chosen. A restless road, no turning back
One day you will find your light again. Don't you know? Don't let go. Be strong
Seated at the small table in her apartment's cozy kitchen, Penelope took a moment to savor the delicious smell of the cup of coffee she had just poured. The gourmet beans were an indulgence – albeit a small one – that usually acted as her instant mood improver. A part of her knew that it wouldn't work today.
The room around her was, more than almost any other in the comfortable apartment, an extension of her eclectic personality. The round wooden table she'd found at an upstate garage sale was painted in a beautiful shade of robin's egg blue. On it, she had stenciled a design of placemats the color of coral. It was on one of these spots that she now rested her coffee cup.
The small action gave her a momentary respite from what had become a wearying existence. She knew she'd probably be crying again in a moment, but at least for now the coffee soothed her senses.
Reaching out, Penelope took a cupcake from the pretty centerpiece in the middle of the table, and took a small bite of the rich sweet. She'd seen the idea for the centerpiece in a magazine, and had first recreated it in the early days of her marriage, when everything about her life was full of excitement and promise. She remembered how much fun it had been to create cute and unique ways to surprise him. She had baked again today in an attempt to recover the memory of that happiness. It lifted her spirits for a little while.
It didn't last.
A wash of feeling – loss fighting regret for prominence – rolled over her as she remembered sharing coffee with a different group of people at another time in her life. It was a different existence, far superior to this one, and the intensity of the feelings prompted the silent tears to finally overflow and make their way down her cheeks. She stared blankly at the wall in front of her, not quite seeing the small but noticeable brownish stain that marred the otherwise pretty yellow paint.
The stain was the result of him throwing the balance of a bottle of red wine against the wall just over two months ago. She had never imagined that he had that kind of rage in him … or that he would ever turn it toward her. The worst part was that his anger was over something really stupid. She'd wanted to go out, and he didn't. The occasion had been the celebration of their first wedding anniversary.
More tears rolled down her cheeks and fell to salt the coffee now forgotten on the table in front of her.
How had they come to this? It was so not the forever she had had in mind when she had said 'I do'. She had had so much hope when she first said 'yes' to him. It was supposed to be the beginning of the rest of her life with the man she loved. They would make a wonderful life together, raise a family, and grow old together. It should have been her one real chance to have everything she ever wanted in life – love and a family of her own. It was supposed to be forever. Penelope released a staccato bark of rueful laughter into the otherwise silent room. Who the hell knew 'forever' was less than two years long!
It wasn't supposed to be this way. Well, repeating it – even in your own head – didn't make it any less true. When they'd left Virginia for New York, although saying goodbye to the rest of her BAU family had been hard, her new life had beckoned with so much enticement and promise.
The ease with which everything had fallen into place, Penelope had taken as proof that getting married and moving to New York were just meant to be. To be honest, when he had first suggested that they both transfer to the New York office, she'd been stunned. She couldn't understand why he would want to leave their entire history behind them in Quantico. After a while, though, he had managed to persuade her.
He talked about getting an apartment together; going to work together every day, even if they'd be in different departments. The fraternization rules wouldn't apply, because they'd already be married before they began their new jobs – it still meant they couldn't work in the same department, but they'd be in the same building and be able to see each other all the time. He had convinced her that nothing much would change.
Instead, everything had.
She'd left it all behind and in the last eight months had felt that loss stronger than ever. Penelope couldn't even pinpoint a time when she knew her marriage was failing, despite every effort that she made. No matter how hard she tried to make a good home for him, as the months passed, he had begun to spend more time with his new buddies from work. He needed space, he told her.
After a while the lonely nights became the norm, rather than the exception.
No, Penelope couldn't say when her marriage had started to fail, but she knew exactly when she understood that he was leaving her. That was the day he had told her that she wasn't the same person he had married. The day he said there was no fun, no spontaneity in their marriage anymore. The day he said he wanted more out of life than to spend the whole of it in an apartment in New York.
Glancing down, Penelope remembered the coffee. It was cold now. Picking up the cup, she poured the liquid into the sink. She had to stop drinking so much of it anyway. It wasn't as though it helped either. As she stared out of the little window over the sink, she told herself that she had to stop crying, and make some kind of plan.
He'd been leaving her for the last six weeks. She was only waiting on the final blow to fall. However, as much as she would hate herself for doing it, she had a compelling reason to beg him to stay.